Saltblood, a tale of war, pirates and deception. I loved the blurb and loved the book, thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for the advance copy. It’s due out on April 25th.


by Francesca de Tores

In a rented room outside Plymouth in 1685, a daughter is born as her half-brother is dying. Her mother makes a decision: Mary will become Mark, and Ma will continue to collect his inheritance money. 

Mary’s dual existence will take her to a grand house where she’ll serve a French mistress; to the navy where she’ll learn who to trust, and how to navigate by the stars; to the army and the battlegrounds of Flanders, following her one true friend; and finding love among the bloodshed and mud. But none of this will stop her yearning for the sea. 

Drawn back to the water, Mary must reinvent herself yet again, for a woman aboard a ship is a dangerous thing. This time Mary will become something more dangerous than a woman. She will become a pirate. 

Breathing life into the Golden Age of Piracy, Saltblood is a wild adventure, a treasure trove, weaving an intoxicating tale of gender and survival, passion and loss, journeys and transformation, through the story of Mary Read, one of history’s most remarkable figures. (Goodreads)

My Review

This fascinating story tells pretty much all of Mary Read’s life. It uses a first person, present tense narrative, which draws you in to Mary’s secret thoughts and observations. It feels autobiographical, even though Francesca de Tores has pieced it together from many sources, all with scant information.

Saltblood is wholly engrossing. I’m fond of sea stories, but this starts on land before Mary, transformed by her Ma into Mark, the half-brother who pre-deceased her, joins the navy. Mark has a good go at naval warfare, before shifting into the army for a taste of Belgian mud. And not until a cavalry officer is ‘unmasked’ as a woman does Mark have any intention of revealing himself as Mary.

in these days of transgender and LGBQT+, it may be surprising to consider how, really, it was ever thus. But Mark reveals some interesting thoughts on the differences in the treatment and attitudes to women in the 18th century, and they ring true even now.

it’s a fabulous story, with an arc that peaks earlier than I thought it might, but then the roll of the dice means that even Mary can’t avoid the inevitable forever. The characters are lively, wondrous and mixed-up — why else take to piracy? The issues of the time, warfare and slavery, provide a background context to the ‘escape’ so many wretches seek.

The end is well-handled, and the writing is so beautiful I want to go back and read it again. No higher praise than that.

note: I immediately went to track down the author’s other books. She wrote those as Francesca Haig. Just to remind myself!

Book Review | Saltblood by Francesca de Tores
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4 thoughts on “Book Review | Saltblood by Francesca de Tores

  • 6 April, 2024 at 2:13 pm

    I’m writing down the title of this book – sounds like a really great read!

  • 8 April, 2024 at 3:21 am

    This sounds really good. I love the cover, too :). Making a note, piling up Mount TBR.

    • 8 April, 2024 at 3:33 am

      And dang… doesn’t seem to be available for pre-order anywhere, so I can’t put it on my library or Amazon wish lists where I’m least likely to forget 🙁


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